Francis ate his cheese and ham panini in silence at lunchtime, as he had suspected they had gone to the local coffee place. He couldn't get the image of Arthur going into that room with Alfred out of his head..what had they done? Had they..non, he must not think such thoughts. Lifting the Styrofoam cup to his lips France blew on the hot coffee for a few seconds before tasting the caffeinated liquid.
It did little to soothe him.
Why should he care what Arthur did? Who Arthur ended up with, what Arthur said, the way Arthur looked when he smiled. He didn't care. Mon dieu..what was going on? He tugged the ribbon out of his hair and ran his hands through his silky locks. After straightening out the knots from his hair that had occurred due to his little nap earlier he began absentmindedly twirling the ribbon around his fingers. It ended up on his little finger, tied in a bow. Francis bit his lip.
"Oi, frog!" Francis looked up from the book he was reading, Arthur was walking towards him, dressed in a simple white shirt and cotton trousers. He was growing up so fast now. His build was more boyish and he was quite a bit taller. France smiled.
"Ah, mon petit ami, 'ow nice of you to visit me" England rolled his eyes, putting his hands on his hips. Francis raised his eyebrows when Arthur didn't say anything and placed his bookmark by the line he had been reading before closing the cover. England seemed more content now he had Francis's full attention.
"You can..tie bows...right?"
"Oui, of course." France gestured to the bow that held his now slightly longer hair in a pony tail.
Arthur chewed his lip thoughtfully before nodding with his head "Teach me"
A small smirk spread across Francis's face before he pushed himself up from his seat and moved to stand in front of Arthur. He was still at least a foot taller than the Englishman and that pleased him.
"D'accord..mais pourquoi?" France pulled the bow from his hair gently, letting his hair fall freely around his neck. Arthur didn't say anything in response so Francis continued anyway.
"First of all tu take the ribbon-" he held up the thin piece of material so England could see- "and tu put it underneath what tu want to tie up" he took Arthur's hand in his and lay the ribbon underneath his little finger on his right hand.
Arthur nodded, his face contorted in concentration. Francis smiled.
"Zen tu bring the ends up like this" he pulled the ends up so they matched on length on either side - "and tie them in a simple cross motion" - he tied the ribbon around England's finger gently -
"Tu then get un side of the ribbon, like so, and make it into a loop" Francis chose the right side of the ribbon and held the end to the crossed knot so a loop appeared.
"After that tu hold the loop, lift up ze other side of the ribbon and put the loop under it" he tilted his hands so England could see him hold the loop in between his thumb and forefinger before using his other hand to lift up the other side of ribbon and pull the loop beneath it.
"Nearly there mon petit~" France hummed, feeling the Englishman's concentration start to wane.
"Tu see zis side that we just put under ze other? It now 'as a opportunity to make another loop. Tu close off the big loop you made with zis other loop, like so" France held the left side of the ribbon over so it looped around the larger loop.
"And now..tu grab the piece of ribbon nearest tu you, zis one 'ere" he pointed to one piece of ribbon "and pull it through-" Francis tugged on the material and it slowly pulled together.
"That's it?" Arthur asked, stretching out his little finger to see the small bow now tied there. He watched it in awe.
France chuckled at the Briton's naivete yet nodded his head "Oui it is your turn now"
It took England nearly the whole of that day to master the simple 'bow.' His concentration never wavered once though and eventually a small neat bow was tied around France's little finger.
"Très bien" Francis smiled, patting Arthur's shoulder.
England laughed breathlessly at his achievement before pointing to the bow around the Frenchman's pinky.
"Are you not going to take that off?"
"..Maybe later" France reasoned, chuckling to himself.
He didn't take it off for the entirety of that whole week.
France grumbled to himself, pulling off the bow from his finger and placing it quickly back in his hair. "Tu need to stop dwelling on zese things Francis.." he snapped at himself, picking up the rest of his panini and taking random bites out of it. When he thought about it was hard to believe that Arthur now badmouthed him constantly..they used to get on so well.
Shaking his head to dislodge any previous thoughts he'd had of Arthur Francis finished off his food before wiping his mouth clean on a serviette. He was aware of one of the waitresses looking at him interestedly yet he just didn't have the heart to woo her today. America and England still hadn't reappeared..perhaps they were still..non, stop it. Don't think about stuff like that.
As though they had read his thoughts a second later the door to the coffee shop opened and America burst through, his laughter breaking through France's silent state of mind and grinding against his nerves. His hand tightened on his coffee cup. England followed soon after, brushing himself off and trying to flatten down his hair and redo his tie. Doing up ties..that was another thing France had taught him.
"Yoooo Francis" a large hand slapped against his back and France jumped at the contact, his coffee nearly jumping out of it's container to stain the table top.
"Ah..Amérique..what a...surprise" Alfred slipped into the seat next to him casually and gestured for Arthur to sit opposite them. By all means, join me.. Francis thought dryly.
America slung an arm around the Frenchman's shoulders before shooting him the same malicious smile as earlier "How's things?" France narrowed his eyes slightly, what was Amérique trying to achieve 'ere?
"Bon..et toi?" Francis knew that Alfred didn't know a word of French, save for 'Bonjour' so it wasn't much of a surprise to him when Arthur perked up to translate for the American.
"Good..and you?" France let his eyes slide back to Arthur who's eyes met his for a second before withdrawing from what looked like embarrassment.
"I'm amazing, dude..soooo good" Francis felt his stomach churn when America winked at the Englishman, who in return blushed a light shade of pink.
He listened to the general babble of conversation from the two countries sitting with him with a feeling of only being half there. Something was wrong..he was Francis Bonnefoy, wondrous lover and cook, he shouldn't be feeling like zis!
"I am going to go" He finally spoke up, chucking a couple of euros onto the table before pushing Alfred's arm off him, allowing him to breathe.
Arthur looked up at him, startled, "Why?" he asked, his eyebrows drawing together in confusion.
America just looked smug.
Sliding out of the booth seat Francis grabbed his coat from over the back of the spare chair next to England and shrugged. "I need some air..it is good pour tu, non?"
"Aussi, 'who says I want to sit 'ere with tu people? Mon company is much better" interjecting his usual snide comment as he left France barely felt any emotion behind his words. They sounded..tame.
"You're still going to drive me back though, right?" England called after the Frenchman as he headed towards the door, his hands un clenching and clenching into fists.
Francis paused, his hand on the push handle of the glass door, in the reflection he saw Arthur's large green eyes watching him.
"Oui, I shall."
Without a word more France left the coffee house. His head was starting to hurt.
Two more hours the meeting went on, two more hours of watching lust filled looks cross the table between America and England. Two more hours of watching Arthur fall in love with someone else other than him. Perhaps he had always thought that that childish promise of future love might come true. But he realised now that's all it had been. Child's play. Empty words.
Letting his eyelids droop memories began swimming behind his closed eyelids, memories of their childhood, of their early adult years. Of when America had been found..in a sick way he guessed this was his fault.
"Is that the kid?" England asked, peering through the bushes on his knees to see the small boy dressed in a simple white shift. Francis watched as the other man's eyes lit up in delight at the prospect of becoming a parental figure. He had once had that joy too.
"Oui but I doubt he'll come to tu, you're too scary mon petit"
"I AM NOT SCARY!!"
"Oh look what tu did!! You made 'im cry Angleterre!!"
France crawled forwards until he was close enough to the small boy, his sandy coloured hair was stuck up in the front in a sort of cow lick. He looked strangely like Arthur..
Perhaps..non.. "Tu will want to come with moi, mon chéri, Angleterre can't cook for anything"
he said loudly, making sure Arthur was in ear shot.
Then lower he said "Go with 'im, d'accord? Make 'im happy" he patted the small child on the back to set him walking over to England who had been rocking back and forwards from the 'bad cooking' insult.
Francis watched as the little boy tugged on England's sleeve until the man's large green eyes looked up. Arthur smiled in happiness. They hugged. France walked away.
Then again, how was he to know how America would turn out? He was only doing a friend a favour at that time. Mon dieu..he must stop thinking like this. He would drive Arthur home like he had planned, making his usual snappy comments about British cuisine and so on, drop England at the euro tunnel and then drive on home without thinking of the Englishman one single time.
Oui..it would work. Or not. But he'd try.
"France? What the bloody hell are you moping about?" Francis slowly lifted his eyes up from tracing the grains in the wood table top and met the narrowed green slits that belonged to the Englishman.
"Rien, mon petit. What do I owe the pleasure of 'dis intrusion?"
Arthur's face seemed to go blank for a second before his eyebrows pulled together in a scowl and he gestured wildly with his arms around the board room.
"We're the only ones here! For fucks sake Francis, do you EVER pay attention?"
Behind them the clock on the wall struck four and England spun around on his heel to glance at It before tapping his watch and glaring at the Frenchman.
"We have to go. I'm not missing my train."
Shrugging nonchalantly France grabbed his still sealed briefcase and proceeded to head out the room. He heard Arthur's hurried footsteps behind him but ignored the sound. Something inside him had snapped all of a sudden. He was angry. Very angry. Why did he have to mope around after England? Shouldn't Arthur apologise for everything he'd put him through?
"Uh..Frog..you're going the wrong way" Arthur called, pointing towards the stairwell he had just passed
"Merde visage.." Francis spat under his breath childishly, ignoring Arthur and jabbing the big white 'down' button next to the elevator pad. Arthur walked to stand next to him and glanced cautiously at the Frenchman's unusually aggravated expression.
A small ping noise went off and a second later the lift doors opened, inside it was decorated with purple and gold swirling patterns along the hand rails and installed with dimmer lights so not to blind the occupants.
As they sailed down the dozen or more so floors they had passed this morning France kept his expression bitter, like he was chewing on a rather sour piece of lemon, whilst England stood next to him, obviously uncomfortable and watching the arrow that stated which floor they were on.
"Did you just call me 'Shit face' earlier?"
The doors smoothly slid open and France stepped out, brushing off his hands and reaching into the pocket of his jacket.
Looking back over his shoulder he thought he glimpsed a look he recognised on Arthur's face, a look that the Englishman used to wear when he had wanted to be accepted by him.
"B-because if you did I have a few dozen bloody words for you!"
Francis sighed before turning his head back and walking onwards.
"W-well did you?!"
"Shut up Angleterre!"
"I will bloody well not shut up!! You called me a 'Merde visage!' a Shit face! I'm not dense!"
"I said be quiet Arthur! I 'av a headache! You're not 'elping!"
"Get out of my way, Angleterre!"
Francis grabbed Arthur's face with his hands and roughly planted his lips on top of the Britons. He kept his eyes squeezed shut for the seconds the kiss lasted before pulling back and meeting England's astonished and horrified expression.
"Or that" France snapped, grabbing his car key from the Englishman's hand and slamming the 'exit' door loudly behind him.
Once again in front of his full body image mirror France pouted as he felt around in his back pocket. His neck scarf was missing.
"I bet 'zat Amérique took it..'e always wants to mess with moi"
It wasn't really the neck scarf he was thinking about though..
Touching his fingertips to his lips Francis let his eyes flutter closed and the memory of how Arthur's lips had felt on his spread to the very fore front of his mind.
That wasn't the first time they had kissed..
It was a Saturday afternoon in May, the sun was shining bright and a light blissful wind was blowing the cherry blossoms off the trees so they swirled around like delicate ballet dancers doing twirls.
France watched this scene with a small satisfied smile on his lips. He loved the spring.
What made it all the better was that England had finally agreed to meet with him, after the thousands of roses and love letters he had sent he was amazed the Brit hadn't given in sooner but each to their own he supposed. Love took longer with different people.
As the days were warmer Francis had taken to not wearing as many clothes as he could, he had been scolded by the other countries and his government that he couldn't just lay around in the nude so he just took to wearing some cut off dark blue trousers and laying around shirtless.
England stopped around a foot from where the Frenchman was stretched out across the grass and let a pained expression cross his face.
"Do you have to be shirtless? What's wrong with cotton? It's nice and cool"
Arthur shuffled his feet nervously as Francis propped himself up on his elbows and scrutinised him with one eye closed in relaxation.
"Mais it is cooler to let your skin breathe, non?"
England shrugged his slim shoulders and averted his eyes, rubbing his wrist with his hand as though in embarrassment.
"Come-" France said after a second or too, taking in the Brit's flushed cheeks and awkward stance "-Sit" he patted the soft grass next to him and smiled reassuringly.
Watching out the corner of his eye as the Englishman sat next to him France bought his legs up close to his chest and leant his chin on his knees, letting his lengthy blonde hair tickle the skin of his legs. He lay his arms round his legs in a loose hug motion before tilting his head so he could see the Briton.
"'Ow come you are here with moi? I thought you were busy avec your-" France lifted his fingers up to make quotation marks in the air "-friends?"
Arthur whacked him on his arm, a scowl stealing his features before he stuck his tongue out in objection at the Frenchman who just laughed in return.
For a while they just sat in silence watching the blossom continue swirling and the sun beat down on the ocean in the distance which glittered like a thousand jewels.
"Oh, he speaks!, mon dieu!"
"Fine if you're going to be like tha-"
"Non, non, mon petit, you know I am kidding. What is it?"
England slowly turned himself round so he was sitting facing France cross legged, his hands knitted tightly in his lap.
"Have you..ever..kissed anyone?"
France blinked largely for a few seconds before stretching his legs out again and setting a knowing smile on his smile.
"Of course, Angleterre. I am a lover non?"
Arthur looked down to his hands, nodding tightly. A second later he began picking at his nails.
"Was that an..invitation?" France teased, smirking slightly. When England didn't respond his smile began to fade.
Arthur shook his head slowly, a blush beginning to stain his usually pale cheeks
"Forget it I shouldn't have asked"
Francis watched England's expression steadily, watching the way the nerves made Arthur's lips twitch as he kept forming words and not following them through. England's scruffy blonde hair looked a little bit more tamed than usual and a thought swam into his mind. An effort to look good for him? 'Ow mignon..
"D'accord" France breathed, exhaling loudly before turning his body so he was facing Arthur. As an afterthought he shifted onto his knees to be more comfortable. England didn't raise his head but just kept it facing downwards, his eyes following the movement his thumb was making as he traced circles in his palm.
Softly Francis reached out to touch the powder like texture of England's cheek, his finger tips stretched out tentatively before he realised that Arthur wasn't making a move to bat him away. He slid his hand to cup Arthur's chin in his palm. Unusually for a man the Briton had a rather petite facial structure.
"Are you going to look at me, mon petit?" England's eyes flicked around quickly, to the floor, the sky, the hills, vaguely to France's face and then away again. Francis sighed.
"Si vous plait?"
As though it cost him a great effort to lift his green eyes up from the floor Arthur finally obliged and met the Frenchman's bright blue eyed gaze.
They both leant forwards. More blossom petals fell on to their heads and settled in their hair. A slight wind whipped around them causing Francis to shiver. Arthur's lips were soft, that was the Frenchman's first thought. Both youngsters sat there, unsure of what to do, slowly moving their lips against each other's with their eyes tightly closed.
It wasn't until a couple of minutes later when the pair opened their eyes and ceased their intimate encounter that they realised their hands were then neatly twined around each other.
Francis remembered how after a while they had kissed again, both of them getting used to the feel of the motion and realising they both rather liked it.
He had lied to Arthur then..he had not kissed anyone before that moment. He supposed it didn't matter now, but at the time he had wanted to seem superior and impress the Englishman. It had worked though..Arthur's first kiss had been taken along with his own.
Noticing that the sun had dipped beyond the horizon and his room was bathed in a early evening dusk France allowed himself to slowly settle down on his bed. He pleated the covers in between his fingers delicately, making neat creases and folds. After a while he lifted himself up, his knees aching slightly from the movement, and strolled over to his liquor cabinet.
A bottle of red wine and a glass appeared in his hand before he even had to give it much thought.
He'd soon get those pesky memories out of his head..just like Angleterre sometimes said, "Better to drown the pain and not remember, right?."
TO BE CONTINUED..